Kitchener-Waterloo

Ontario school boards must develop service animal policy: Minister

Ontario's Education Minister Stephen Lecce announced Monday school boards will need to develop a policy and procedure for service animals in school. He says currently just over half of school boards in the province have policies in place.

Education minister calls move a 'positive step forward' for students

Education Minister Stephen Lecce announced the province is mandating all school boards to develop policies and procedures for students who have service animals. (Kate Bueckert/CBC)

School boards across the province must develop policies and procedures surrounding students with service animals by January 1, 2020.

Just over half of school boards in the province have policies in place currently, Education Minister Stephen Lecce said during an announcement in Kitchener on Monday morning.

A service animal is defined as any animal that provides support to a person with a disability, a memorandum from the province says.

"Anything the province can do to create a framework ... to support children who need service animals is a positive step forward and it's a realization that we can do more to provide that inclusive environment for our children," Lecce said.

Lecce said Kitchener South-Hespeler MPP Amy Fee was a driving force behind asking school boards to create service animal policies. Fee's son, Kenner, has a service dog.

"It wasn't just my son and I found other families across the province who were struggling to get their service animals into class," Fee said.

Fee said she hopes school boards will develop policies that will allow children with service animals to bring them into the classroom, while also taking into consideration allergies or phobias.

She said they need to make sure "all sides are looked at equally to try and see if that's the best option for the student."

Kenner Fee is MPP Amy Fee's son. He has autism and has a service dog. He brought his service dog to a Kitchener classroom to explain to other students why it's important students like him receive this kind of support at school. (Kate Bueckert/CBC)

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